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go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing “ the things which fhall befal me there, save that " the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, " that bonds and afflictions abide me; and now be“ hold, I know that ye all
whom I have gone “ preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face
no more."--Now, I appeal to every candid mind, whether the tenor of this narration, and of these sentiments, is not very different from what we should naturally expect either from deceivers or fanatics? Would men who fabricated a history to gain the reputation of a prophetic character for themselves or others, ascribe the most striking and important predictions, not to themselves, or to those whose characters they wished to exalt, but to some other obscure individual, who is represented as expressly revealing what they before had been ignorant of ?-Such confessions as these never proceed from impostors.-On the other hand, would wild enthusiasts, wrapt in the vain dreams of a perpetually superintending inspiration, have thus strictly limited their pretensions to prophetic light, to a few events of their lives, out of a great multitude, confessing themselves in others totally dark and ignorant ?-would they have been able to say to the overpowering torrent of fanatic delusion-fo far shall you go, but no further ? Assuredly not.—Let me add, that when the apostles deliver predictions of remote events affecting the interests of the church in distant ages, while they confess themselves ignorant of many, which were immediately interesting to themselves ; this seems exactly conformable to what we should expect from the inspiration of that wisdom which descended from above, not to gratify their private curiosity, or to promote their personal advantage, but to exhibit them as the lights of the world, in whom the spirit of prophecy should bear testimony to Jesus -a testimony, whose clearness should increase with the progress of time, and whose full splendor should be reserved, to illuminate the remotest periods of futurity
The mode in which the apostles proposed the evidence of
Christianity was free from enthusiasm.
IF from the nature of the evidence offered by the apostles, we turn our attention to the mode in which it was proposed, we shall be still more clearly convinced of the truth and soberness with which their instructions were enforced. It has indeed been sometimes halledged, in order to thew that the acceptance of Christianity was not founded on rational conviction, that its first teachers did not give their
h Vid. Christianity not founded on argument, p. 39, with Doddridge's reply, letter ii. p. 10. and Dr. Randolph's Christian faith a rational assent, p. 180 to 195.
hearers sufficient time to examine the proofs which they advanced ;-but this is directly contradicted by the history of the apostles. In many instances, doubtless, the direct exhibition of clear and uncontrouled miracles to the senses of men, joined with the immediate interference of the Spirit of God, produced such full and instantaneous conviction, as rendered all abstract reasoning superfluous and impertinent; hence three thousand of those who witnessed the miraculous effusion of the Holy Ghost at the feast of Pentecost, were converted at once ; and the subsequent miracles of the apostles encreased the number speedily to five thousand. But the general progress of the gospel, though rapid enough to evince the interposition of divine power, was yet sufficiently deliberate and gradual, to afford full room for the exercise of calm reason and fober enquiry, in those by whom it was embraced. At Antioch, Paul and Barnabas, for “ a' whole year, assembled them“ selves with the church, and taught much people ;" from thence they were delegated, after deliberate prayer and fasting, to preach the gospel to the surrounding region ; and when they had executed their commission, during an absence of considerable length, they returned to Antioch, and "abode there a long time with the disciples. At Corinth, though St. Paul had the most extensive province of any of the apostles, yet he continued a year and six months
i Acts xi. 26.
k Ib. xiv, 28.
1 lb. xviii. 4 and 11.
teaching teaching the word of God, and “ reasoned publicly in the fynagogue every fabbath, persuading the Jews and Greeks.”
To the inhabitants of Ephesus he appeals, " that he had not ceased to warn them night and day “ for the space of three years.”_" At "Rome “Paul dwelt two years in his own hired house, and “received all that came unto him, preaching the “ kingdom of God, and teaching those things which
concern the Lord Jesus Christ.”-Besides this, the apostles ofrequently in their circuits returned again to the same places, and when they could not conveniently go themselves, they fent other teachers to plant the gospel, or establish it where planted; and in every city where they came, they ordained elders capable of building on the foundation they had laid, and teaching all who desired to receive instruction. And as both our Lord and his apostles afforded fufcient time for enquiry, they also adduced the evidence, which they supplied for the truth of Christianity, in that manner which was most natural and simple,
Acts XX. 3!.
a Ib. xxviii. the end. * Vid. Acts xiv. 21 to 25. Ib. xv. 41.
p For these observations on the manner in which our Saviour and his apostles proposed the evidences of Christianity, and its propriety, I am indebted to Dr. Alexander Gerard, profeffor of divinity in the college of Aberdeen, who in his volume of differtations on subjects relating to the genius and evidence of Christianity, published in London and Edinburgh, 1766, has a copious and elaborate dissertation on this subject.
and best calculated to prove its truth and reality ; they proposed the evidence of their mission in two very different situations, to those who had not yet expressed any prejudice against the gospel, or against the proofs of its divinity, and also to those who were actuated by strong prejudices, engaged in active opposition, and who raised the most forcible objections they could discover : in these opposite situations they proposed the evidences of the gospel, in different manners, each of which was exactly proper in the circumstances under which it was employed, and each proves the truth and soberness which attended the promulgation of Christianity.
In addressing those who did not raise objections against the evidences, it was their uniform method to fatisfy themselves with barely exhibiting these evidences ; they laboured not to prove by argumentation, that they were sufficient ; they were not at pains either to prevent or remove every objection which might be started; they explained not minutely the particular manner in which each evidence supported their miffion.
Thus our Saviour delivered the most pure and ex. cellent doctrines; but, except when driven to it by opposition, he did not urge their excellence as a proof of their divinity, he left his hearers to feel the excellence of his religion, and conclude for themselves, that it was of divine original; it was not by means of